On April 21, 2021, the European Commission (EC) released a study mapping the current landscape of initiatives and research activities relevant to creating Safe and Sustainable by Design (SSbD) criteria for chemicals, materials and products. The release of the study comes just a few weeks after the first stakeholder workshop on the topic (FPF reported). The study specifically focuses on how current EU, and a few US, policies under the sustainability umbrella affect the life cycle of materials and chemicals.

According to the study, the policies surveyed decently cover human and environmental hazards during a product’s use, but “few criteria were found to cover other sustainability aspects.” For example, production is primarily only considered in the raw materials of wood-based and textile products, where certifications about sustainable sourcing are more common. The study also includes a section specifically reviewing current research and initiatives around the production of safe-by-design nanomaterials.

The authors noted the NaturePlus ecolabel as a potential source of inspiration for the SSbD criteria due to NaturePlus’ science-based labelling criteria. The report proposes that the structure of the SSbD criteria should include product production, use, and end-of-life with the entire life cycle of the product considered from the beginning of the design stage. Specifically, a material’s “structure and physicochemical properties must be linked to their prospective hazard… [then,] hazards can either be omitted or the least hazardous form with the desired functionality can be chosen for the next stage.”

Building on this research, the EC hopes to develop the SSbD criteria by identifying which specific aspects of safety and sustainability are to be covered and how exactly those criteria will be evaluated. Then the evaluation scheme can guide SSbD criteria for specific uses of chemicals, materials, and products.

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EC (April 21, 2021). “Mapping study for the development of Sustainable-by-Design criteria.”

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